Market reaction to the debt showdown in Washington

AP News
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Posted: Jul 29, 2011 5:31 PM
Market reaction to the debt showdown in Washington

Here's an overview of how various markets are reacting to the impasse in Washington over raising the U.S. borrowing limit. The Treasury Department says the government won't have enough money to cover all its bills after next Tuesday if the limit isn't raised.

_ Stocks: The Dow Jones industrial average had a sixth straight day of losses. On Friday it closed down 97 points at 12,143. In addition to anxiety over a possible U.S. default, the government also reported that U.S. economy slowed in the first half of the year to its weakest pace since the recession ended two years ago. The S&P 500 index had its worst week in a year. Small company stocks fared worse than the rest of the market as investors shed what they consider to be riskier assets. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks fell 5.3 percent this week, worse than the 3.9 percent decline in the S&P 500.

_ U.S. Government Debt: Yields on short-term government debt rose as investors anticipated that the government might have trouble paying its debts as early as next week. The yield on the Treasury bill coming due Aug. 4 jumped to 0.24 percent. Yields on the benchmark three-month T-bills have been as low as 0.01 percent as recently as July 15. Yields on longer-dated Treasury securities fell as investors looked for relatively safe places to park money. Even with the threat of a default or a downgrade of the government's triple-A credit rating, most investors still consider Treasurys one of the safest investments around. If big investors start to doubt the creditworthiness of the U.S., you'll see a sharp rise in yields, especially in the widely held 10-year Treasury note. That hasn't happened yet. On Friday the yield on the 10-year note fell to 2.80 percent, its lowest level of the year, from 2.95 percent late Thursday.

_ Bond insurance: The cost to protect against a U.S. default within one year has reached a record high this week. Traders have to pay 54 percent more to insure Treasurys for one year than they did last Friday.

_ Gold: Gold rose just under 1 percent to settle at $1,631 an ounce Friday. Gold prices have been rising partly on fears of a U.S. default. Gold closed above $1,600 an ounce for the first time on July 18. Unlike other metals, including silver and copper, there are few commercial uses for gold but it's seen as an asset that is likely to hold its value. That makes it difficult to gauge just how much it's really worth. When gold prices are high, experts say it's a good indicator that people are scared to invest in other markets.

_ Currencies: The dollar fell broadly against other currencies Friday, partly over the debt talks and partly over the report of weak GDP growth in the second quarter. An index measuring the dollar against six other currencies fell 0.6 percent. When money managers are concerned about the value of the U.S. dollar, they sometimes buy currencies issued by countries that have been more prudent with spending.